Posted on: May 4, 2022
Uncover The Truth About Root Canal Treatment
Are you reluctant about visiting the dentist when you have a severe toothache because you’re afraid that you might need a root canal? Fortunately, you don’t have anything to worry about. A root canal is a very common dental treatment that actually relieves tooth pain instead of causing more discomfort. More than 15 million root canal procedures are completed in the U.S. each year.
This routine dental treatment can also help you prevent tooth loss, and it can help you avoid a tooth extraction or costly procedures, such as artificial tooth replacement. If your dentist tells you that you need a root canal, separating fact from fiction when it comes to root canals can help you make an informed decision.
Root Canal Overview
Your dentist might recommend a root canal if the pulp inside your tooth is infected.
A tooth’s innermost layer contains the pulp. This layer of soft tissue inside of the tooth contains the nerves, connective tissue, and blood vessels. An infection can affect the tooth’s pulp when there is deep, untreated decay. Infection can also set in if a tooth breaks or cracks, which can expose the pulp.
The infected pulp becomes inflamed, causing intense pain. Root canal therapy can relieve tooth pain and prevent the infection from spreading by removing the infected pulp. The procedure may be the only option your dentist has to preserve your natural tooth and prevent an extraction.
How Do I Know I Need a Root Canal?
Only a dentist can determine if you need root canal therapy, but these are the typical symptoms you might experience if you have a tooth with infected pulp:
- You have substantial tooth pain
- The gum tissue of the affected tooth is red or swollen
- The affected tooth appears darker than normal
- You experience pain if you apply slight pressure to the tooth
- Your tooth is extremely sensitive to hot or cold
- You develop an abscess
- Your tooth pain spreads to your ear or jaw
- You have swollen lymph nodes
- You have a bad taste in your mouth
Most of these symptoms indicate that you’re experiencing a serious dental issue, so you should be seen by a dentist as soon as possible.
Common Questions About Root Canal Treatment
Having a discussion with your dentist about the concerns you have about receiving a root canal can help you feel less anxious about the procedure. Consider asking your dentist these questions:
- Do I really need a root canal?
- Will another dental treatment work?
- How is a root canal performed?
- Does the procedure hurt?
- Will I receive anesthesia?
- How long does it take to get a root canal?
- What are the risks of the procedure?
- Will I have a fully functional tooth after the procedure?
- What is the cost of a root canal?
- Will dental insurance cover a root canal?
A Step-by-Step Guide to the Root Canal Procedure
Here’s what you can expect to happen if you need a root canal:
Step 1: Dental Exam
Your dentist will take x-rays and examine your mouth to determine if root canal therapy is the most appropriate treatment. Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics if you have an active infection.
Step 2: Preparation
You’ll receive local anesthesia to numb the affected tooth and gum tissue. Nitrous oxide, also called laughing gas, can help you feel more comfortable if you have anxiety. To further prepare you for the procedure, the dentist will place a dental dam in your mouth to isolate the tooth and keep the surrounding area dry.
Step 3: Pulp Removal
The dentist drills an access hole into the top of the tooth. With a small tool called a dental file, the dentist carefully removes the pulp. Then, the root canals are shaped, cleaned, and disinfected with an antibacterial rinse.
Step 4: Filling the Canals
The dentist fills and seals the canals with a flexible material called gutta-percha. Then, a temporary is placed over the top of the tooth. This fills the access hole and keeps out bacteria.
Step 5: Crown Placement
You’ll come back to the dentist’s office for a crown. Since your tooth is still susceptible to damage, placing a crown around the tooth adds strength and stability. The crown is custom-made to match your existing teeth. After placing the crown, the strength and durability of the tooth are restored.
Not including the time it takes to place the dental crown, the entire root canal procedure can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes. It usually takes at least two visits to the dentist to complete the restoration of the tooth. The root canal takes place during your first appointment, and the dental crown is placed during the second visit.
Is Pain Normal After a Root Canal?
It’s normal to feel some discomfort for a few days after a root canal. The dentist can suggest a pain reliever you can buy over-the-counter to help reduce pain and discomfort. Contact your dentist’s office if you feel intense pain or if your discomfort does improve after a few days.
What Should I Expect for Aftercare Following My Root Canal?
It’s best to avoid eating anything until the numbness wears off. You’ll also want to avoid chewing or biting on the side of the mouth where the root canal was performed until you receive your dental crown. Eating mostly soft foods for the first few days after your procedure can also be helpful.
You can brush and floss like you normally would. Rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash can help keep your mouth free of bacteria. Since smoking can affect healing, dentists also recommend that you avoid smoking before and after your root canal. Most people can return to work or school the day after a root canal.
Root canals are a safe and effective treatment, and the majority of patients don’t experience any complications. By practicing good oral hygiene and seeing your dentist twice a year, it’s possible to avoid needing another root canal.